28
Jan

In late 2014, when I visited the Peshmerga on the northern Iraq frontline with Isis, the famed Kurdish warriors were in buoyant mood. After a wobble when the militant Islamists captured Mosul that June, the Kurds had restored their image by recapturing a swath of land where the jihadis had massacred, terrorised and displaced Iraqi ethnic minorities.

Iraq’s Kurds have proved the most reliable western allies in an anti-Isis struggle in which other regional forces have been at best ambivalent and at worst have colluded with the jihadis.

With the survival of the autonomous Kurdish enclave at stake, and their aspirations of statehood closer to being realised, the Kurds have not vacillated in their resolve. For that, they have been celebrated and supported by western governments.

This tale of determination makes the Peshmerga’s treatment of towns and villages seized from Isis all the more distressing.

Stories of abuse have trickled out but it was only a few days ago that I read a comprehensive account. A friend handed me a report she had written for Amnesty International based on more than a year’s investigation into the areas recovered by the Peshmerga.

Through visits, satellite imagery and interviews with displaced people, she found a disturbing pattern. Arab residents of these towns and villages who fled to the Kurdish north were deliberately prevented from returning; in several cases the Peshmerga have destroyed or allowed the destruction of homes to ensure that villagers had nowhere to return to.

The forced displacement of populations may amount to a war crime, according to Amnesty. Read more…

 

By Roula Khalaf; published on Jan. 27  in www.ft.com

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